Saturday, August 29, 2009

Levon at the Borgatta

Levon Helm at the Borgatta Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Saturday, August 29, 2009

Levon Helm - From the Hawks to the Crows

When Levon Helm came to Somers Point in the spring of '65, he was the leader of Levon & the Hawks, having left rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins and settling into the Jersey Shore scene as the houseband at Tony Marts.

Now he's come back with the Crows, the Black Crows.

I thought Levon had top billing and the Black Crows were going to open for him, but I had it backwards, and Levon and friends opened for the Crows, who recently spent some time at Levon's studio barn in Woodstock, recording a new live double album, "Before the Frost...Until the Freeze," with a unique marketing approach.

[For more see Bobby D's interview with Crows drummer Steve Gorman ]

It was just as well because Levon wasn't singing (Doctor's orders), and it was easier for some of the Crows - Chris and Rich Robinson and Gorman, to sit in with Levon's band than to get a jam going later in the night. Since the casinos make the bands wind up early to get the people into the casino, the second show isn't always the longest or the best, as it usually is in a nightclub. So they had to pour it on all at once and fit it into a neat one hour set, and they did.

At some point early in the proceedings, it was announced that Levon wasn't going to sing, and Chris Robinson of the Crows came out and sang parts of a few songs, including "The Weight," which they took turns singing verses.

Levon should certainly get the Comeback of the Year Award, having survived lung cancer, he was knockin' on heaven's door the last time we saw him at the now defunct Bubba Mac Shack in Somers Point a few years ago (See Photo of Levon with Tony Marts T-Shirt). He had a good band with him then, and he was showcasing his daughter Amy, who has certainly matured into a real stage talent with a fine voice.

Then after beating the cancer, and getting his voice back, Levon cuts Dirt Farmer, which wins all kinds of awards, and puts his name in lights - solo, without the Hawks or The Band.

There were some familiar faces on stage however, besides Amy, especially guitarist Jim Weider,who played guitar with The Band when they played the first Tony Marts Reunion at Egos in the 1980s. Jim was on his honeymoon when he came to the Jersey Shore, and standing next to him on stage is Larry Campbell, who also produced "Dirt Farmer" and the recently released "Electric Dirt."

They also have a live 2 CD set of a live concert they did, which includes some classic Band tunes, "Ophelia," and a mandolyn playing Levon singing "Atlantic City."

While that song was a natural for this show, nobody else probably knew the words (as penned by Bruce Springsteen), but for the songs they did do, everybody seemed to pitch in and take over different vocal chores that are usually handled by Levon.

I mean Levon's voice gives impramatter to "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "The Weight" and the they're just different songs if sung by anybody else.

Besides Jim and Larry on guitars, and Amy singing, there's Larry's wife, who sings and plays acoustic guitar, and a boogie-woogie piano player with a Dr. John style, a four man horn section and a stand up base set up behind Levon's drums, on stage right, looking in, with the guitars up front.

They put the horns to work right away with the opening number, "The Shape I'm In," an old Band tune that sturs recognition, as does the somber "Long Black Vail," that Amy does so well, with dad on mandolyn, and letting the horns reign, each taking a solo. And Larry's wife gets to showcase her talent on guitar and vocals on "It Makes No Difference," complete with Rick Danko flashbacks, God bless him.

I thought they'd play a lot more new stuff that I wouldn't recognize, but even when they did I figured it out - "Deep Elm Blues," on which Jimmy shines on guitar, and a song that I happen to know something about, one that Steve Ray Vaughn would have known, since Elm Street in Dallas is just across the leve from his Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas. While in Dallas for a conference I asked a taxi driver to take me to "Deep Elm," which is a at the opposite end of town from Dealey Plaza, where the Texas School Book Depository is on Elm Street where it begins as a little ally bullets flew over in killing JFK. Deep Elm is an old red light neighborhood where there are still a number of bars with live bands - mainly blues and jazz, and that's what the "Deep Elm Blues" is about.

Where "Dirt Farmer" is mainly old country and folk songs that Levon grew up with in Arkansas, "Electric Dirt" has some unique renditions of some classic songs, like "Atlantic City" and "Deep Elm Blues." Then there's the interesting version of the Dead's "Tennessee Jed," that everybody recognizes and is on the new record.

Larry Campbell can sing too, as he does with a verse of "The Weight," and he really blew me away on "Chest Fever," which he takes from Band organist Garth Hudson, and makes it his own, playing Garth's brilliant and complicated introduction on lead guitar, note for note, he hits it, leading the rest of the band into one of their best numbers.

There's a line in "Chest Fever" that refers to the "Goons at the Dunes," which some locals to recall the burley bouncers at the old Dunes 'till Dawn nightclub, which was open all night with live music, on the Longport Blvd to Ocean City and Somers Point, a tidbit that I bet Larry Campbell doesn't know.

Eventually three of the Crows came out - Gorman and the Robinsons, making it a crowded stage, but they got into a grove and maintained it, for one hour.

While there was some concern about Levon's voice and the possibility of a relapse, Amy said that he will be singing again soon, though we'll have to track him down, and maybe even have to go to Woodstock to hear him sing in the barn.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tony Marts Web Site

New Tony Marts Web Site

Tony Marts nightclub doesn't really exist like it once did on Bay Avenue in Somers Point from 1945-1982?, but it's still a big part of the personal evolution of anybody who was there, and now you can virtually go back to Tony Marts by visiting the on line web sit -

I know Carmen and Nancy have been working on this for a long time, but I am really impressed. It's a great setting, fine photos, and good stories, to which I can't wait to add my own.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Levon with Tony Marts T-Shirt


Levon with Tony Marts T-Shirt, backstage at the Bubba Mac Shack, Somers Point, NJ
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Levon Helm at the Borgatta

Levon Helm at the Borgatta, with the Black Crows

Levon Helm will return to Atlantic City on top of the world, with top billing at the Borgatta, and as the headliner of his own show, after leaving last time almost dead.

The last time he was in town, Levon played the Bubba Mac Shack at Somers Point, but he was very sick, undergoing treatment for throat cancer, and couldn't sing, though that didn't stop him from playing drums while his daughter and others picked up the vocals.

Now he's back, with his voice miraculously cured, he's singing again, and sang his way to a Grammy with Dirt Farmer last year, and on track for some new material this year.

Opening for Levon and his band will be the Black Crows, the Atlanta, Georgia band that has come and gone in various stages, playing songs that run from basic blues to a heavy dose of Led Zeplin metal.

In their current incantation, they've regrouped at Woodstock, playing and recording in Levon's barn, where Levon also did most of Dirt Farmer, and where he plays to visitors on occasion.

Of course Woodstock is also where Levon and the Hawks went after leaving Tony Marts in Somers Point in August, 1965 and following Dylan, first to Forest Hills and other venues where they were booed by folk purists and changed the future and direction of rock & roll.

When Dylan was involved in a motorcycle accident, he recouperated at the Woodstock home recording studio of his manger, Albert Grossman, leading the Hawks to the same neighborhood, where they settled down at the house they called Big Pink, and began to call themselves The Band.

Now The Band has lost pianist Richard Manuel and bassist Rick Danko, who passed away a few years ago, and while guitarist Robbie Robertson has completed some solo recordings, and organist Garth Hudson has sat in with other people, Levon keeps plugging away, both at home at Woodstock and on the road.


Monday, August 17, 2009

The Secretary who Changed the World

The Secretary who Changed the World
& The Legend of Woodstock before the Festival.

The legend and the legacy was set before the festival was even envisioned.

It's hard to say exactly where to begin, New York, Somers Point, Montreal, but the Woodstock myth began in the Manhattan office of Albert Grossman, the entertainment manager whose stable of acts included one Bob Dylan, folk singer extradonaire on the rise.

Dylan had come in to the office excited recently, and made Grossman sit down and listen to this - "Once upon a time you dressed so fine, didn't you......?"

They knew "Like A Rolling Stone" was a hit right off the bat, without even having to test it on somebody else's ears.

The Byrds had taken Dylan's folkie "Mr. Tamborine Man" and made it a rock and roll song with drums and electric guitars, and now with "Like A Rolling Stone," Dylan was writing rock & roll, and you could sense the direction he was going, and it wasn't to Woodstock.

As the legend goes, Dylan asked Grossman, his manager, about getting a rock and roll band to back him on his next tour, and who would Grossman recommend.

I don't know if they asked her opinion, or if she overheard the question and volunteered her feelings, but being from a small town in Canada, she knew that the Hawks were the best rock & roll band she had ever seen.

Rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins had left the band, and they continued on the road under the name of Levon & the Hawks, after drummer Levon Helm, from Arkansas, the only American in the Canadian band who had toured with Hawkins for years.

Grossman asked where the Hawks were playing and found out that their manager, Colonel Kutlets, had booked them into a nightclub in Somers Point, New Jersey - Tony Marts.

Without ever having seen or heard of them, and based totally on this unknown secretary's opinion, Dylan got the phone number for Tony Marts and gave them a call.

Levon had never heard of Bob Dylan, and when Dylan asked them to back him at Carnege Hall, Levon asked who else was on the bill.

"Just us," Dylan said, incredulously.

So Levon and the Hawks went up to New York and met with Dylan and Grossman and agreed they would get out of their contract at Tony Marts and back Dylan at Forest Hills, a tennis stadium just outside New York city.

Although Anthony Marotta, aka Tony Mart, didn't like the idea of the "best rock and roll band on the East Coast" breaking their contract and leaving before the Labor Day weekend, he let them off the hook, gave them a cake and fairwell party and wished them luck. He called Colonel Kutlets and asked for a new band to replace the Hawks and Kutlets sent Tony a new band, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, who had a hit, "Devil With the Blue Dress."

But luck the Hawks didn't have.

When Dylan plugged his guitar in at Forest Hills, the old folkies booed him, but he played on.

Levon really didn't like it however, and after a few gigs he left and went back home to Arkansas.

Then Dylan was in a motorcycle accident, and rumors were he died, or was on life support, and then that he was okay but just really banged up and in seclusion while recouperating.

Word eventually filtered out that Dylan was recouperating at Al Grossman's house at Woodstock, New York, an historic artists community with a history that dates back to the turn of the last century.

Joining Dylan at Woodstock were some of the Hawks, who leased a pink duplex in nearby West Saguarties, and jammed in the basement. Around town they became known simply as "the band," and eventually adopted that name. Their first album, "Music From Big Pink," showed the Big Pink house on the cover, and featured a painting by Bob Dylan on the back. A few of the songs were written by Dylan as well.

Then came bootleg recordings, pressed into bootleg LPs with a plane white cover, known as "The Basement Tapes," ostensibly recorded in the basement of Big Pink, and featuring Dylan, not only singing old and new songs, but talking and telling jokes.

The one joke from the original Basement Tapes I remember, that didn't make it to the official release years (decades?) later, is the story of the Checkmate Coffee House of East Orange, New Jersey.

Dylan says he went there once, and paid for his coffee with chess piece, a rook, and got a knight and pawn for change. Or something like that.

But "Music from Big Pink" and "The Basement Tapes" put Woodstock on the map in the back of a lot of people's minds, a year or so before they began to put the festival together.

And after the festival was moved to Bethel, fifty miles from Woodstock, and The Band performed the festival, both the original town of Woodstock and The Band, got left in the festival's wake.

For some reason, and I think Grossman advised The Band not to permit it, but The Band is conspiciously absent from the Woodstock movie and soundtrack, which is not an accident. I don't think they, The Band, at Grossman's advise, permitted them to use them in the Woodstock film, just as The Band's version of "The Weight" is not used in the Easy Rider film or soundtrack, but a cover band's version. And I think that decision was Grossman's.

Around 1986, after seeing the Band and the Band minus Robbie Robertson, and Danko and Manuel together a few times, I helped arrange for the Band to return to Somers Point for a Tony Marts reunion at Egos, the new disco nightclub that was built on the Tony Mart site.

After we booked the Band, but about six weeks before the show, Albert Grossman, Tony Marotta and Richard Manuel all died within a few days of each other.

The show however, went on. And while they were in town, I got to know Rick Danko, Levon and Garth Hudson a little bit on the personal level.

While Rick passed on a few years ago (after playing the Good Old Days Picnic at Kennedy Park), both Levon and Garth returned to Woodstock and live there today.

The Woodstock museum and arts center is not in Woodstock however, but in Bethel, where the festival was held.

There is no doubt however, that rock & roll history was made when Bob Dylan joined forces with the Hawks - electrified Forest Hills and the music scene, and then hibernated at Woodstock, establishing the Woodstock legend years before the festival.

And it only happened because Albert Grossman's secretary knew the answer to the question of who was the best rock & roll band on the East Coast.

Why that would be the Hawks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dylan No ID Man

Dylan No ID Man

You're Bob Dylan? New Jersey police want to see some ID.

By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 31 mins ago

Rock legend Bob Dylan was treated like a complete unknown by police in a New Jersey shore community when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.

Dylan was in Long Branch, about a two-hour drive south of New York City, on July 23 as part of a tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp that was to play at a baseball stadium in nearby Lakewood.

A 24-year-old police officer apparently was unaware of who Dylan is and asked him for identification, Long Branch business administrator Howard Woolley said Friday.
"I don't think she was familiar with his entire body of work," Woolley said.

The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.

The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name. According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:

"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.

"Bob Dylan," Dylan said.

"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.

"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer.

He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Blowin' in the Wind" said that he didn't have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night's show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.
The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

"He couldn't have been any nicer to them," Woolley added.

How did it feel? A Dylan publicist did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Friday.

Bob Dylan caught out in the rain

Lauren Viera, Tribune Newspapers
August 17, 2009,0,268995.story

Would you be alarmed if you spotted a strange-looking man wearing black sweat pants and a couple of raincoats wandering in the rain in your front yard?

Would you believe him if he told you he was folk legend Bob Dylan?

Yeah, right.

Such was the quandary the 22-year-old rookie New Jerseypolice officer Kristie Buble faced July 23, after investigating a complaint from the owners of a home for sale in Long Branch, N.J. They'd called the police after spotting an "eccentric-looking old man" wandering around their front yard. It was pouring rain, and the man was alone, looking haggard and lost.

When Buble caught up with the man and asked him to identify himself, he told her he was Bob Dylan. He said he was looking at a house for sale. Furthermore, Buble is reported on as saying, "he didn't look like Bob Dylan to me at all. ... We see a lot of people on our beat, and I wasn't sure if he came from one of our hospitals or something."

After Dylan failed to present identification, Buble drove him to the hotel where he was staying. Turns out he wasn't some nut job from the local hospital, after all. Dylan was on tour withWillie Nelson and John Mellencamp.


It's not the first time the "Like a Rolling Stone" songwriter's identity has been questioned. According to the Associated Press, in October 2001, Dylan was detained in Oregon while attempting to enter the backstage of his own concert -- almost, some might say, like a complete unknown.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

B & W Contact Sheet ACPF crowd

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B&W Contact Sheet Crowd Shots - Tom Ryan photo

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A.C. Pop Fest Revisited

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Atlantic City Pop Fest - August 1969

From what I remember, the summer of '69 was pretty busy, with the Parkway Murders, moon landings, Chapaquidick, Vietnam, Woodstock and me graduating from high school, living on 8th and Wesley, working at Mack & Manco's on the boardwalk and getting ready for college.

I don't think we had decided to go to Woodstock yet, but Sunday night of that weekend was slow on the boarwalk because it rained, so I got off early and either recruited or was recruited by others to go to the Atlantic City Race Track to check out the final night and last few shows of the Atlantic City Pop Fest.

We had previously, late Friday night, after midnight after work, went to downtown Atlantic City to a hip nightclub that was advertising heavily on the radio saying that all the big acts from the festival would be there. They didn't show and only local bands played in a very, day glow, psychadelic joint.

But on Sunday night we jumped into my CJ 5 jeep without doors and drove up to the front gate and parked somewhere close and walked in as people were walking out.

As we got close we could hear Little Richard singing, "Good Golly Miss Molly!" and as we got closer we could see him clear, wearing a fur coat on a hot summer night, he twerrelled the coat around over his head and threw it into the crowd, that was going crazy.

The rain had cooled them off, but this was the last set of the last act and it was a doozy.

I think it was at that moment that I knew we were going to Woodstock.

Years later, 20 years later, in 1989, I wrote an article on the Atlantic City Pop Fest - "It was 20 Years Ago Today," that ran in the Atlantic City Casino Journal.

Which I had previously posted here:

ATLANTIC CITY POP FEST - Flashback, August 1969.

Two weeks before Woodstock became a household name in the late summer of 1969, 110,000 people converged on the Atlantic City Racetrack for the Atlantic City Pop Festival - which included many of the acts who made Woodstock famous - Joni Mitchell, Canned Heat, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, B.B. King, the Byrds, Little Richard, Three Dog Night, Procol Harem, the Chambers Brothers, Frank Zappa, Rare Earth, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chicago and a dozen ther bands.

While Woodstock became a major cultural phenomenon, media event and movie, the Atlantic City Pop Festival was a musical experience of a lifetime for those who were there.

"It was the frist time something of that magnitude hit the Jersey Shore, and nothing like it has happened since," says Robin Young, one of the the many who paid $15 for a ticket for the three day affair. A one day ticket for the August 1st, 2nd or 3rd, 1969 event were $6.

As one of the first major shows, and by far the largest at that time, produced by the Electric Factory, the A.C. Pop Fest had its roots in the 22nd and Arch Street psychedelic warehouse in Philadelphia, where many of the new bands of that era performed.

Larry Magid, along with his partners Herb and Alan Spivak, introduced the Philadelphia audience to many of the West Coast groups that were then in the vanguard of the cultural revolution that was sweeping the country. San Francisco has its Haight Ashbury, New Yourk has Greenwich Village and Philadelphia has Rittenhouse Square, wher all the hippies would congregate to protest the war in Vietnam, play guitars and throw firsbees.

Around the corner on Sanson Street was the Apple Head Shop, owned by Dan and Pam Davis, who also owned the Birdcage Head Shop on the boardwalk in Ocean City. They sold posters, incense, pipes and jewelry, while aroud the corner, the Electric Facory brought in the music that attracted an increasing larger crowd of the psycheldelic generation.

On February 2nd, 1968, Magid and the Spivak brotehrs opened their club with the Chamber Brothers, whose song, "Time Has Come Today," with its cowbell rhythim, was on the pop charts.

"Music is something you can rally around," says Magid today, noting that for the most part, the bands booked for the Atlantic City Pop Festival had previously played the Electirc Factory. "Chicago, then known as the Chicago Transit Authority, still played the Electric factory, but by that time, we had strated doing shows at the Spectrum."

The A.C. Pop Fest however, was the biggest show they had attempted, and they did it right. The acts matched up and were equal to if not better than Woodstock, and the festival itself was much better organized.

Whereas Woodstock was overwhelmed with a flood of counter-culture campers who crashed the gate, threw a party, left a mess for others to clean up, and lost money, at least until the movie came out, the Atlantic City Pop Festival went off without a hitch.

"They had a nice dream for Woodstock," says Magid, "they certainly had the place. People knew Woodstock at the time as the place where Bob Dylan lived. But they forgot to do the most important thing until it was too late - put the gate up. They sold too many tickets. Maybe if they were able to control their ticket sales they would have been able to control it."

On the other hand says Magid, "We had a good show, and I think it was successful mainly because it was a controlled enviroment at the race track, rather than an open field in the country."

Like Woodstock, which actually took place on Max Yasker's farm near Monticello, New York, local Mays Landing officials tried to ban a gathering of such undesirable elements.

Woodstock itself is still much the same small artists' colony it was 20 years ago, with local residents fighting attempts to hold similar large scale festivals.

From his Electirc Factory office in Philadelphia, where he still runs the company that promotes concerts, Larry Magid said, "Any time you have a large influx of people, the township has to be concerned, and rightfully so. People around the country at the time weren't exactly thrilled with kids with long hair. But we thought we attracted a lot of people. We brought additional revenue to the area. We filled a lot of campgrounds and motels. And we ran an orderly show. Any problems we did have, we were able to contend with them quickly."

"We had a birth, we didn't have any deaths," says Magid, "and we had a good mix of progressive bands that were just beginning to get popular radio airplay, so we didn't have just kids, and sold tickets to people of all ages."

"For Dan Fogel, a Margate musician, it was a family outing. "My parents even went dressed up as hippies," Fogel recalls, "with my mom dressed like an Indian and dad as a cowboy. That's as far as hje got with the hippie thing."

"That was a big year for me," says Robin Young, of Ocean City. "It was the year I made the beach patrol and became a lifeguard. It as also the convergence of a lot of things - the anti-war movement, the psychedelic era, and the music."

"The thing that stands out the most in my mind," recalls Somers Point bartender Jonas Alexy, " is the guy I saw with a crewcut and military jacket with 'Cong Killer' scrawed across his back."

Some people confuse the Atlantic City Pop Festival with another Electric Factory show with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young/Santana concert held at the same location a few years later. And for many, the good times of that period blend into one memory bank where its difficult to recall many details. To put all of this in the right time frame, the Atlantic City Pop Fest was held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 1969. The Vietnam war was raging, the ghettos were burning, Richard Nixon was president and man had just landed on the moon.

The counter-culture movement rallied around music, and it was the music that was the attraction. "It was the first time that people in this area were hooked up with the West Coast music scene," contents Robin Young. The Byrds, with their "Eight Miles High," "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn, Turn, Turn," were there along with the Jefferson Airplane, the Chambers Brothers and Janis Joplin, rounding out the West Coast coningent.

There was also "B.B. King," already familiar to the Atlantic City audience, Dr. John, Iron Butterfly ("In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida"), Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Three Dog Night, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Rare Earth, Booker T. and the MGs.

Procol Harum played their classic, "Whiter Shade of Pale," Canned Heat did "Goin' Up the Country," and Author Brown sang a rousing version of his song, "Fire,.....I get you to burn,...," which was then a hit on the pop charts and radio.

While Woodstock was billed as "Three days of Peace and Music," with a schedule of eight acts a day, folk one day, rock the next, Atlantic City had 29 top flight acts. Magid claims that, "while their show developed into that, it was both good and bad for them. It became unmanageable for the people that were running it, yet it was good because of what it became. Perhaps we gave them a little push."

The 110,000 attendence figure is also a little bit misleading. While Woodstock attracted over a half-million (500,000) people, the A.C. Pop Fest had between 30,000 and 40,000 people each day for three days, wit many of the same people returning for each day. They were swimming nude in the Horese Shoe motel pool on the Pike, and when the motels and campgrounds were full they pitched tents in the woods behind the track.

Bill Muller of Ocean City was in boot camp at Fort Dix at the time. "Some guys from down south in my unit got leaves for the weekend and went looking for somebody who knew how to get to McKee City," Muller recalls. "I told them I would show them where it was if tehy would take me along, so I went AWOL. I took them right to the back stretch instead of to the front gate. We hopped the fence and enjoyed the weekend before going to Nam."

Young remembers that the only big problem he saw was when Hugh Maaskela came on and played some soft quiet music after another band had just stirred the crowd into a frenzy with sname dancing in lines up and down the isles. "One guy was so hot and sweaty he decided to take a dip in the infield lake," Young recalls, "and before long all the people were running towards the lak, pushing and shoving, and I think some people got hurt." The only known casuality.

As far as concert security goes, Magid says, "Rock n' Roll is just like any other industry - it matures. You develop different systems to meet different problems. Hopefully there will be even better ways to do things. We'd like to make the audience more comfortable."

Between sets many people mingled among the flea market booths that were set up in the Club House. At the time many people drank cheap wine, like Boone's Farm, out of brown suede flasks. Another guy says, "Me and my buddy didn't see too much of the music, we were really busy trying to score with the hippie chicks."

Dan and Pam Davis, who ran the head shops on Sansom street and the Ocean City Boardwalk, set up a table concession at the track and sold posters and trinkets to the audience. "That was some show," Dan said, reflecting on the Pop Fest. "I'm still into it today, on tour with the Greatful Dead - riding around the country from concert to concert in a mobilhome, selling things in the parking lot before and after the shows." Pam says that "Turquoise is making a comeback, but crystals are the big thing now."

Could the Atlatnic City track be the site of another festival? The Enviromental Response Network wants to put on a seminar and benefit concert for enviromental, non-profit organizations in September, and Magid says the track is still a good venue. "It's just that there are others that are better."

"We had one other show there, the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Santana. But it is very expensive to have a show at the track. It's hard to work around the horse race meets, and sometimes in this business, it's not possible to do that. Artists compete for dates or go to the place where they'll do the best. We were happy with the two shows wed did there, but now we have JFK and the Vet, which are less expensive and bigger."

The Atlantic City Pop Festival, it seems, was a once in a lifetime occurence.

I caught the last show on the last night and will never forget it. Having graduated from high school that spring, and getting ready for college, I worked all weekend making pizza at Mack & Manco's on the Ocean City (NJ) boardwalk. My peers were persuasive in convincing me to go along with them after work Sunday night to try to catch the last few acts.

The gates were open and people were starting to leave, but as we made our way towards the stage, through the throngs of people, I could see Little Richard swinging a fur coat around his head while singing, "Good Golly, Miss Molly!" It was starting to drizzle , but the place was going wild. Everone was dancing, their arms flaling when Little Richard took his fur coat and flung it into the crowd.

When he broke into "Tutti Frutti," I suddenly realized what rock n' roll was all about. I looked at my buddies and we all knew the answer to the question we had been asking all week, "Are we going to Woodstock?"

The Atlantic City Pop Fest may not be as famous as Woodstock, but it was a better concert, a more organized show, and changed the lives of a lot of people.

"It was the right place at the right time," says Larry Magid. "It was the timing as much as anything, right smack in the middle of that whole era. It was a good experience for many, and when that movement kept getting bigger and more popular and was not just for the moment, not just a fad, the festival became part of our history and folklore."

[Originally published in part in the August, 1989 edition of the Atlantic City Monthly]

Michele, Heather's auntie said...
I certainly agree with you on that one. As one of the people who attended Woodstock, and has written a story in the book Woodstock Revisited, I have to say that was the best concert by far.

I wish I would have thought to put a call out for stories about that one. Your story brings back more memories.

MARCH 30, 2009 1:46 PM
Ellen Christine Millinery said...
I always looked at the AC Pop Festival as a dry-run for Woodstock. After the fact, of course, since that was the furthest thing from my mind at the time. I made it to both, benign little hippie chick that I was. My crowd always stayed at the shore during the summer, but this was the summer a year later after Senior Week had made it's mark. We were still hanging out at the shore on our at-home visits from college, and music was our touchstone. Electric Factory Concerts had us enthralled, so to AC we went.
Woodstock happened a blink of an eye later that same summer, and because of AC, we were ready. At the track all three of those days, drowning in a sea of music, and high from the experience (no comment, please), we felt part of a new generation making it's stamp on the world. Those concerts solidified our beliefs, our destinies. Surrounded by unfamiliar faces all feeling the same vibe, we revelled in those moments of shared consciousness. It was indeed those moments that created the Woodstock Nation, and helped propel our generation to the front lines of changing the world.

JULY 24, 2009 3:44 PM
Jackie Farg said...
I remember driving down to AC with my two girlfriends. We only had enough money for one night in the hotel on the boardwalk. It seemed to take forever to get to the racetrack, cars and people everywhere. Once there people had little tables set up selling their stuff. I remember a girl climbing up the light pole for a better seat. Great time, fond memories. It would be great if there was a tape of it.

JULY 30, 2009 4:36 PM

Dr. John at AC Pop Fest


Dr. John and Company

Photo by Tom Ryan
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AC Pop Fest at Night


AC Pop Fest Stage at Night - Tom Ryan photo
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AC Pop Fest


AC Pop Fest - Tom Ryan photo
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AC Pop Fest Stage


AC Pop Fest Stage - Tom Ryan photo
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